British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Sid Guttridge
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 May 2021 11:08

Hi daveshoup,

Like I said, you need to do a bit more reading on the subject of the Aegean Campaign.

Certainly the Germans achieved aerial superiority in the area. Have you ever wondered why, given the massive overall Allied aerial superiority?

Cheers,

Sid.

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 19 May 2021 16:43

Gooner1 wrote:
19 May 2021 11:00
daveshoup2MD wrote:
19 May 2021 05:07

This battalion was trained infantry, was diverted to a role the other Allied powers didn't use infantry for (during which, presumably, it didn't have much time to continue to train as infantry), and then was disbanded and the individuals were drafted into the replacement pool. So much for unit cohesion. The same point was made many posts ago.
The battalions were trained infantry and were used as trained infantry after a period of doing important tasks on the landing beaches. What is the problem here?
Would it have been better to use them as cohesive units, perhaps, but a glance at Rich's post showing the number of all ranks shows that they were well short of a proper infantry battalions full strength (c.845 all ranks), meaning they would have to be reinforced before being attached anywheere.
As a guess I would say they lacked the full range of supporting weapons, mortars, A/Tk guns, Carriers and also full signals and headquarters i.e. they were all mainly riflemen.
Well, on JUNO only 5th Royal Berkshires landed with their six 6-pdr AT, probably because of NAN Beach's proximity to Caen and the presumed line of approach from any counterattack by 21. Panzer-Division. The Liverpool Irish, on MIKE, did not land with any AT guns and were much weaker overall. It doesn't appear that either of the beach battalions on GOLD landed with any 6-pdr, while I haven't been able to find the details for SWORD. 5th Berks was probably an exception, since the standard beach battalion organization used the Support Company personnel to man the fuel depot on the beach. One rifle company was also reorganized to handle ammunition supply on the beach, leaving three companies nominally organized as infantry. It is unclear if any of the battalion 3" mortars were retained, although it is likely the three rifle companies probably still had its 2" mortars. I can also only find 5th Berks and the Liverpool Irish with carriers, but most of the "vehicles" landed with the beach battalions were handcarts, bicycles, and jeeps, with a scattering of 3-ton G/S and a couple of amphibious jeeps.

Overall, the notion these battalions were some secret source of under utilized manpower is unsupportable. All of the battalions were draft finding units for at least a year before they were selected for their roles and had been stripped repeatedly to supply reinforcements for the field. Simply put, they had little or no "unit cohesion" as an infantry battalion by summer 1943 when they were selected for their specialist role and the training they received for that role would have only fostered a sense of :unit cohesion" as a beach battalion. By the time they were selected, most were reduced to cadre and required infusions of personnel for training, but none were brought up to full strength in manpower or equipment as an infantry battalion.

Nor were the beach battalion personnel the main source labor on the beach, except in the initial stages when they assisted in moving assault stores off the LCT. Labor was the responsibility of the 23 companies and 6,700 men of the Pioneer Corps landed on the first and second tide, which had a similar role to the American QM Service and TC Port companies.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 20 May 2021 13:18

Richard Anderson wrote:
19 May 2021 16:43
Well, on JUNO only 5th Royal Berkshires landed with their six 6-pdr AT, probably because of NAN Beach's proximity to Caen and the presumed line of approach from any counterattack by 21. Panzer-Division. The Liverpool Irish, on MIKE, did not land with any AT guns and were much weaker overall. It doesn't appear that either of the beach battalions on GOLD landed with any 6-pdr, while I haven't been able to find the details for SWORD. 5th Berks was probably an exception, since the standard beach battalion organization used the Support Company personnel to man the fuel depot on the beach. One rifle company was also reorganized to handle ammunition supply on the beach, leaving three companies nominally organized as infantry. It is unclear if any of the battalion 3" mortars were retained, although it is likely the three rifle companies probably still had its 2" mortars. I can also only find 5th Berks and the Liverpool Irish with carriers, but most of the "vehicles" landed with the beach battalions were handcarts, bicycles, and jeeps, with a scattering of 3-ton G/S and a couple of amphibious jeeps.

Overall, the notion these battalions were some secret source of under utilized manpower is unsupportable.
Rich,

Thanks for those details. It might also be worth noting that there are quite a few references to the extent to which, in addition to providing individual replacements, the Beach Battalions provided complete sub-units as replacements. So for example, from the war diary of 1st Buckinghamshire Regiment (here: https://www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/frames.htm:
13th August 1944
0030 - Conference held. Decided that 'A' Coy should go [to 7 A&S HIghlanders, 51 (H) DIv] complete less Coy HQ and Coy Comd. Allowing for halt and sick etc 'A' Coy could muster 90 bodies. Balance of 60 accordingly provided by 2 Pls (complete) of 'D' Coy.
And 2 full platoons from 7th East Yorks went to 2nd Lincolns (3rd (Br) Div) end Jul/early Aug (source: Mettle and Pasture, p.234).

What I'm not sure about is how planned the use of personnel from the Beach Group infantry battalions was and how much it was a reaction to an immediate crisis. In hindsight, it seems like a good use of available personnel and a, perhaps fortuitous, pre-positioning of infantry replacements in theatre. What more could one ask for. :D

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 20 May 2021 20:01

And for those interested in the Beach Groups:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item ... 1060028927

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 23 May 2021 17:15

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
20 May 2021 20:01
And for those interested in the Beach Groups:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item ... 1060028927

Regards

Tom
So here is a question...what was the infantry battalion allotted to 4 Beach Group, the reserve group for JUNO?
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 May 2021 19:38

Richard Anderson wrote:
23 May 2021 17:15
So here is a question...what was the infantry battalion allotted to 4 Beach Group, the reserve group for JUNO?
Hi Rich,

And it's a good question. I've got the war diary of 4 Beach Group for SALERNO when it was also a follow-up unit and it doesn't appear to have included an infantry battalion. Fd Coy RE, O.B.D, Petrol Depot, D.I.D., 3 x Coys P.C., Beach Signals, provost Coy, U.S. Dukw pl, Lt. Sec Lt Fd Amb, Hy Rec Sec and M.E. Sec giving a total of 1340 men and 75 vehicles.

During HUSKY, it does, however, seem to have included four "Beach Coys". My hunch, and it is only a hunch, is that it was realised that only the "assault" Beach Groups needed infantry units so if 4 Beach Group was used in a reserve role on JUNO I would suspect that it didn't have infantry units attached.

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 23 May 2021 20:38

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
23 May 2021 19:38
During HUSKY, it does, however, seem to have included four "Beach Coys". My hunch, and it is only a hunch, is that it was realised that only the "assault" Beach Groups needed infantry units so if 4 Beach Group was used in a reserve role on JUNO I would suspect that it didn't have infantry units attached.

Regards

Tom
Yep...except that the other reserve Beach Groups were built around an infantry battalion? And part of the point of the infantry battalion was using its headquarters complete as the beach group headquarters...if there was no infantry units attached, then who provided the headquarters personnel?

6th Beach Group was the reserve for SWORD with 1st Buckinghamshire.
36th Beach Group/Brick was the reserve for GOLD with 18th Durham Light Infantry.
4th Beach Group was the reserve for JUNO with... ?

Odd, isn't it?

I did find one reference - a postwar photo - of a "South Staffordshire" major who was in 4 Beach Group, but no battalion given.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 May 2021 11:22

Richard Anderson wrote:
23 May 2021 20:38
Yep...except that the other reserve Beach Groups were built around an infantry battalion? And part of the point of the infantry battalion was using its headquarters complete as the beach group headquarters...if there was no infantry units attached, then who provided the headquarters personnel?
Rich,

I had a look at the British OH for Sicily and on p.141 it says that the infantry nucleus for Beach Groups 3 & 4 (for 1st Canadian Division) was provided by 6 Pioneer Coys whereas all the other Beach Groups/Bricks have a named infantry battalion in that column. I'm wondering if that was because 3 & 4 Beach Group came from the UK, while others were formed (I think) in North Africa and Middle East. Curious.

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 May 2021 15:43

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
24 May 2021 11:22
I had a look at the British OH for Sicily and on p.141 it says that the infantry nucleus for Beach Groups 3 & 4 (for 1st Canadian Division) was provided by 6 Pioneer Coys whereas all the other Beach Groups/Bricks have a named infantry battalion in that column. I'm wondering if that was because 3 & 4 Beach Group came from the UK, while others were formed (I think) in North Africa and Middle East. Curious.

Regards

Tom
Thanks Tom, that may explain the random South Staffordshire officer if he was simply seconded to the Beach Group when it moved to England for the invasion.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 May 2021 19:23

Richard Anderson wrote:
24 May 2021 15:43
Thanks Tom, that may explain the random South Staffordshire officer if he was simply seconded to the Beach Group when it moved to England for the invasion.
I found a couple of snippets about Beach organisation in the British COS papers (CAB80/74/1) for Sep 43 (post-HUSKY lessons discussion) that are relevant:
Beach Group organisation - CAB80-74-1.JPG
Beach Group organisation - Plans - CAB80-74-1.JPG
I can fully understand why it might be considered that the Beach Group organisation might need to change depending on geography and the opposition to be expected.

In the plans snip, it shows that the "infantry battalions" were always intended for alternative employment once ashore - I note it says LoC. I'm gradually going through the COS papers so I'll post up anything else that I come across.

Regards

Tom
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Sheldrake
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 24 May 2021 23:01

Richard Anderson wrote:
23 May 2021 20:38
Yep...except that the other reserve Beach Groups were built around an infantry battalion? And part of the point of the infantry battalion was using its headquarters complete as the beach group headquarters...if there was no infantry units attached, then who provided the headquarters personnel?

6th Beach Group was the reserve for SWORD with 1st Buckinghamshire.
36th Beach Group/Brick was the reserve for GOLD with 18th Durham Light Infantry.
4th Beach Group was the reserve for JUNO with... ?

Odd, isn't it?

I did find one reference - a postwar photo - of a "South Staffordshire" major who was in 4 Beach Group, but no battalion given.
The Orbat Appendix IV of Victory in the West Ellis Vol 1 lists the following as LOC units. Reconciling these with the orbat in Joclyn

5 Kings (5th Beach Group)
8 KIngs (7 or 8 Beach Group)
7 E Yorks
2nd Herts (9 or10 Beach group)
6th Border (9 or10 Beach group)
1st Bucks (6th Beach Group)
5th R Berks (7 or 8 Beach Group)
18 DLI (36 Beach Group)

By a process of elimination 4 Beach group has to be based on 7th E Yorks.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 25 May 2021 03:34

Sheldrake wrote:
24 May 2021 23:01
The Orbat Appendix IV of Victory in the West Ellis Vol 1 lists the following as LOC units. Reconciling these with the orbat in Joclyn

5 Kings (5th Beach Group)
8 KIngs (7 or 8 Beach Group)
7 E Yorks
2nd Herts (9 or10 Beach group)
6th Border (9 or10 Beach group)
1st Bucks (6th Beach Group)
5th R Berks (7 or 8 Beach Group)
18 DLI (36 Beach Group)

By a process of elimination 4 Beach group has to be based on 7th E Yorks.
The lay down I have is:

4th Army Beach Group (JUNO Reserve) – ?
5th Army Beach Group (QUEEN Beach) – 5th Kings Regiment
6th Army Beach Group (SWORD Reserve) – 1st Buckinghamshire Regiment
7th Army Beach Group (MIKE Beach) – 8th King’s Regiment (- C Coy)
8th Army Beach Group (NAN Beach) – 5th Royal Berkshire Regiment with C Coy, 8th King’s
9th Army Beach Group (KING Beach) – 2d Hertfordshire Regiment
10th Army Beach Group (JIG Beach) – 6th Border Regiment
36th Army Beach Group (GOLD Reserve) – 18th Durham Light Infantry
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 May 2021 07:56

Sheldrake wrote:
24 May 2021 23:01
By a process of elimination 4 Beach group has to be based on 7th E Yorks.
WO171/1399 - 7th Bn East Yorkshire Regt - Jan - Aug 44

That National Archives reference certainly suggests that it went to NW Europe and disbanded in August alongside many of the Beach Group infantry units. Anyone going to Kew in the near future?

Regards

Tom

Von Schadewald
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Von Schadewald » 15 Jun 2021 12:08

It would have been v bad for late-war British morale if they had drawn Omaha Beach, and had lost the 1000 men manpower that the Americans did.
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Sid Guttridge
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 15 Jun 2021 14:09

Hi von Schadewald,

1,000 dead is not the first day of the Somme (19,000 dead).

It probably wouldn't have made much difference to over all British morale so long as success was gained. Defeat would have been the morale killer.

Cheers,

Sid.

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